Lighthouse, Fern Grotto and Luau… oh my!

Our big plans yesterday were the Smith’s Fern Grotto boat tour and Luau, but those wouldn’t start until 3:30 so we decided to kill a little time and drove up to the Kilauea Point Lighthouse and Wildlife Reserve first.  We visited the lighthouse the last time we were here but it was covered in scaffolding so we weren’t really able to see it.  The light house was originally built in 1912 and dedicated with a ceremonial luau in May 1913.  100 years later, the lighthouse was rededicated on May 4 of this year (we just missed it by a couple days!).  We decided that it would now be freshly painted and photo-ready… unfortunately, the weather was a bit wet so the photos weren’t quite as spectacular as I believe they could have been.  Oh well… we had a good time regardless.  :-)

‘Ike (vision)  Lawelawe (service)  Mana’olana (hope)

The lighthouse was originally let with oil lamps, and eventually was switched over to electricity in 1930.  Eventually, however, the use of more modern technologies like RADAR and other advancements made the use of lighthouses obsolete.  In 1976 the US Coast Guard decommissioned the lighthouse and installed the beacon shown below.  For more information about the lighthouse history, check out

The lighthouse and point later became part of the Kiluea Point National Wildlife Refuge when the organization was established in 1985.  As you look along the coast, you can’t help but see all of the dots of white, hundreds (thousands?) of birds covering the coast and enjoying the pockets of sea breeze that fill the inlets.  If you look closely, you may also find a few nesting in the embankments as you walk through the park.

Next was the Smith’s Fern Grotto Wailua River Cruise.  The Smith family began their river tour business in1946 and while the boats have gotten bigger over the years (Mr. Smith Sr invented and patented “pushers” which are engine and barge systems that can hold 150 tourists at a time, while keeping the ride relatively smooth and quiet) I get the impression that little else has changed since they began giving tours all those years ago.  In fact, as I look over the photos I took of the day, aside from some of the fashion, you wouldn’t have known whether they were taken today or in 1960.

The cruise was 90 minutes of clean, family-friendly fun.  A short (3 mile) ride up the mouth of the river to the fern grotto.  A lovely Hawaiian show once we were there, and more music and hula on the ride back.  I can’t think of a more pleasant way to spend an afternoon before the Luau.

Check out the architecture – see what I mean about the fact that things don’t seem to have changed?  I absolutely love this about Kauai.

So here’s the fern grotto.  See that cave?  In years past, the entire crowd would have walked up into that cave as part of the tour.  We understand that they had to stop doing this when some large rocks fell from the cliffs – but I thought it would good to give you a sense of the scale.  In fact, check out this link to a postcard of the same place, the photo taken in the 60’s or 70’s.

The Hawaiian Wedding Song – for all us lovers.

Beautiful flowers on the walk back to the boat

Now for the Luau!  We decided to try the Smith Family Garden Luau.  At first, I thought that the family had been running the luau for as long as they had been giving boat tours to the Fern Grotto, but it turns out this isn’t the case.  Apparently, the previous owners of the property had built gardens that were meant to emulate the Polynesian Cultural Center in Oahu, putting on a similar luau, but the place closed in the mid 1980’s.  Walter “Freckles” Smith, who ran the boat tours at the time, saw that the property was becoming an eye sore – so he began feeding the birds, and the Smiths took over the lease.  Three generations of the Smith family then began the clean-up and landscaping effort to restore the gardens and Smith’s Topical Paradise opened in the mid 1980’s.  There was a running joke about the traditional Hawaiian name “Smith” and the fact that we all were taking a bit of a gamble by going to a Luau with that name on it.  Grandpa Smith came over to Hawaii in the early 1900’s, he married a Hawaiian and it is their family that has been running this show for the last half century.

Love the old school sign.

We ran into Mr Walter “Freckles” Smith, driving through the Tropical Paradise grounds before the luau feast.  If I’ve got the story straight, this is the man who took over the boat tour business that his father started, and then decided to take on the tropical gardens when it had fallen into disrepair after the previous tenants left.  If so, it is this man who we can thank for such a beautiful Hawaiian day!

Peacocks everywhere!

And it just isn’t a Kauai trip without at least one chicken photo!

I’m fortunate to have been to a few Luau’s now (at home in San Diego, in Oahu, another here in Kauai, and now this one).  I think that this one had the best food.  The Kalua Pig was delicious!

The show was also a lot of fun – only, we were on aloha time and took so long finishing our drinks before walking to the theater, that we ended up sitting in the back.  This was great for my being able to stand up and take photos without bothering people behind me – but without having a good zoom lens with me, I wasn’t able to get the shots I would have liked to get.  Here are a few attempts…

Overall a great, and very aloha, day!